Thursday, 6 March 2014


How embarrassing! Lego Legere very kindly commented on Chapters 28 and 31 with very useful leads about deck lights and pirate radio stations. I have not been checking to see if any comments are left (well I am rather new to this blogging lark) and the system did not alert me to the comments until this week – nearly 8 weeks after the first one!  Sorry Lego.

I followed up both leads and found the Chapter 31 reference was an article in Dutch!   Hans Knot set out a history of UK pirate radio stations – ‘zeezenders’. If my translating machine is correct, the Voice of Slough was going to be the first. On 10th October 1961 in The Times reported the arrival of a British offshore radio. The newspaper reported that the 42-year-old journalist, John Thompson from Slough, was planning to set up his own radio station. Thompson told the journalist that he had available a 70-ton motor boat with a length of 65 feet, previously used as a fishing boat. The planned anchorage would be in the vicinity of the light ship The Nore , about three miles off the coast at Southend.  The broadcasts would have a power of 1 kW on a frequency of 980 kHz. The launch date was set for 1 December 1961. There were several delays and eventually the main financier, the Canadian Arnold Swanson, abandoned the project and committed to a similar project, that he would call GBOK (Great Britain OK). He bought a former 91 feet long and 570 tons Irish light ship - . the Lady Dixon (recognise that name?). As well as being a radio station, the Lady Dixon would also function as a light ship. A logo was designed (Photo) but troubles lay ahead.

The other lead from Lego was a newspaper archive site and there I turned up an article from the Hobbs Daily News (Hobbs is in New Mexico), dated 29 March 1962. (Photo) The same story also ran in the Kansas City Star.

Basically the story was about Lady Dixon having a sticky time with mud and officialdom. Swanson maintained that he still hoped to be broadcasting by the end of the month. However, even though two tugs managed to free the ship from the mud’s embrace, the UK Government and the BBC were unhappy over GBOK.  Swanson’s application for a ship-to-shore radio telephone license was refused and eventually all the radio equipment was seized. The venture collapsed. She might have been a contender to be the first pirate radio ship in the UK, but never made it.